St Patrick’s Cathedral: That Would be an Ecumenical Matter?

image I’m heartened by today’s news that Robert MacCarthy, the Dean of St Patrick’s (Anglican) Cathedral in Dublin, has proposed that St Patrick’s, the Irish national cathedral, ‘be made a national cathedral for all Irish Christians.’

MacCarthy has written to all the candidates in the Irish Presidential elections, asking them to support his proposal.

Speaking to the Irish Times, MacCarthy noted that a national cathedral for all Christians was part of the vision of Fr Michael Hurley SJ, founder of the Irish School of Ecumenics. He said:

“But there may now be an opportunity to make St Patrick’s into a national cathedral not merely for the Church of Ireland but for all Irish Christians. This was the vision of the late Michael Hurley SJ which he wrote about as long ago as 1970.”

The article notes that Catholic priest Enda McDonagh and Presbyterian minister Ken Newell are already ‘ecumenical canons’ at the cathedral.

I think that this proposal is an exciting one for all Irish Christians, an example of ecumenism in deed rather than merely in words.

And I hope that the invitation for greater participation in the life of the cathedral extends not just to Ireland’s largest Christian denominations (Catholic, Presbyterian and Methodist) but also to its newer Pentecostal, evangelical, and independent churches.

Beyond that, I hope that St Patrick’s can be a place where Ireland’s ‘faith minorities’ are welcomed as well, at the very least for dialogue and shared social action.

(Image by Joachim S. Muller, sourced on Flickr)

5 Responses to St Patrick’s Cathedral: That Would be an Ecumenical Matter?

  1. Martin October 25, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

    It’s slightly imperialist. I think a much more appropriate suggestion would be Croagh Patrick, Clonmacnois, or some other such early Christian site as a place where all Christians could meet on their knees to pray to Jesus Christ. As it is, suggesting an Anglican Church (or even a Catholic Church), smacks of religious imperialism. I would not welcome such a thing, be it in a Catholic or Protestant Church. A neutral venue is what is needed, and one of the early Christians sites is fitting.

  2. Martin October 25, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

    Irish national Cathedral? Surely the Cathedral at Armagh, founded by St. Patrick, is the mother Church of Ireland? Like I say, I wouldn’t support this initiative at all.

  3. anonyjonnny October 25, 2011 at 2:55 pm #

    In my opinion, it’s a noteworthy and creative proposal. The very fact that the Dean of St. Patrick’s is offering what I’d argue amounts to extraordinary hospitality (in essence saying, ‘you are welcome in what is ours; indeed, we relinquish our exclusive ownership in favour of a common ownership’) exhibits a humility and generosity that, certainly in the Irish context, is unmatched.

    It draws comparisons in my mind to the early Christian accounts that ‘all those who owned land or houses’ would sell them for the common good (Acts 4:34). The idea of common ownership is a powerful one, particularly in an ecumenical context.

    So, while noting Martin’s reservations, I’d argue that a neutral venue would inadvertently dilute some of the symbolic power of the idea.

    I hope this ecumenical gesture isn’t allowed to fade away.

  4. Paul McCabe October 25, 2011 at 2:55 pm #

    Wow, Martin, you are so predictable in your opposition to everything that doesn’t jive with your own narrow version of Catholicism. There’s the Church of Ireland trying to make a genuinely generous offer, but it’s not good enough for you!

    I think Christians should at least try to recognize when there is genuine good-will and generosity being offered, rather than trying to pick each other apart.

    It’s kind of like a friend giving you a birthday present, and you moaning about all the reasons why it is inadequate.

  5. Martin October 26, 2011 at 6:32 pm #

    Paul, any church that the proposed events would be held in would carry with it an implicit claim to being the ‘true Church’ – it being the host church after all, one that seeks to encompass all Christians… That’s just the way it is. Far better, as I said, to have a neutral venue, and the early Christian sites of Ireland are ideal, and there are plenty to choose from. In case you didn’t notice, the Catholic Church have lots of big churches too. It’s not like there is a shortage of churches. And please, don’t keep insulting me with claims of narrow Catholicism. I have my opinion on this matter, and I am entitled to hold it.

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